Sunday, June 20, 2010

Movie Review: Toy Story 3

It seems almost pointless to mention that Toy Story 3 was a fantastic movie: Pixar is, after all, in the business of producing fantastic movies.  There's little indication they still remember how to make movies that are anything less than fantastic.

Even so, Toy Story 3 was something of an ambitious undertaking, because it was fundamentally unnecessary.  Toy Story 2 had already taken the series in a darker direction, exploring issues of abandonment and obsession.  They'd addressed the idea that Andy would move on one day, that nothing lasts forever.  Was there really value in confronting that day?

It turns out there was, because Pixar perceived a rare opportunity.  Toy Story 3 isn't about abandonment, loss, or death, though all of these concepts are incorporated into the film.  This isn't merely another movie about accepting change or growing up: that happened between movies.

Toy Story 3 is about saying good-bye.  It's hard to watch the last few scenes without thinking about the end of The House on Pooh Corner.

We should mention a few additional things about Toy Story 3.  The first is that there are several moments in the movie young children may find difficult.  Pixar does not shy away from dark moments, and this is no exception.  The film goes to some dark places, from a daycare run with Nazi-like precision to what can only be described as the gates of Hell itself.  This movie is perfect for those who grew-up with the franchise, but it might be a bit grown-up for those who didn't.

The new characters here are, by and large, excellent.  Lots-o'-Huggin' Bear fills the Prospector's shoes nicely, and Ken captures the essence of the toy line to a degree that's astonishing.  In addition, we were pleasantly surprised to see a plush version of Miyazaki's Totoro appear in a minor role.

It should also be noted that the last third of Toy Story 3 is vastly superior to the rest.  While the movie is always good, it starts a little slow and picks up momentum as it moves along.  The only other critique we have is more directed at the series as a whole: despite his symbolic and emotional importance, Andy was given very little screen time in any of the three films.  We've been told several times that he's a great kid, but we never really got a chance to know him as a character.

Against almost any movie - live action or animated - produced by any company other than Pixar, Toy Story 3 would be almost beyond reproach.  But ours is a relative scale, and as such we must consider Toy Story against the best.  So, against the likes of Finding Nemo or The Incredibles, Toy Story 3 earns 4 out of 5 possible stars.  If it weren't for the somewhat slow first half, the movie might have had a chance at the full 5.

While it's not essential you see it in 3D, the added depth did enhance the film.  We doubt we'd have been any less impressed with the 2D version - after all, Pixar's greatest strength lies in their ability to tell a story - but it's still worth a few extra bucks for the experience.

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